In a recent interview, Steve Martin – the founder of US-based publicity company Nasty Little Man – has spoken about the experience of announcing the death of FOO FIGHTERS drummer Taylor Hawkins. As someone with over two decades of experience in the music industry, Martin has worked with some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll, and he offers a unique perspective on what it was like to break the news to one of the world’s most successful bands.
Martin‘s company has had the privilege of working with some of the most iconic artists in music history, including Paul McCartney, METALLICA, GORILLAZ, David Bowie, FOO FIGHTERS, U2 ,RADIOHEAD, BEASTIE BOYS, and NINE INCH NAILS.
Speaking to Variety about his career, Martin says, “Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, I’ve had to write confirmations of an artist’s passing three times”. Martin is referring to the 2016 death of David Bowie, 2012 death of BEASTIE BOYS‘ Adam Yauch, and Hawkins‘ passing earlier this year. The drummer was found dead in his Bogota hotel room on March 25.
Of the difficulties surrounding the process of announcing Hawkins‘ passing, he continues, “With Taylor, it was more sensitive, because there were a lot of details coming out from the Colombian media.
“There was a lot of second-hand talk in another magazine story, with people relaying things Taylor might have actually said but should have been left to friends talking amongst friends. Managing that, and trying to make it cause as little pain as possible, was a really delicate procedure.”
Martin mentions how writing the death announcement for Hawkins was difficult because of their friendship, which made it more personal.
“It was really rough: I’m very pragmatic about who amongst the clients becomes an actual friend, but Taylor was one. If the band didn’t work for four or five weeks and we didn’t have any contact, he’d call me just to say ‘What’s up?’ He did that with a lot of people he considered friends, which I didn’t really learn until after he died.
“He had so much energy and positivity to share,” Martin continued. “He didn’t have to do that: He played drums full-time in one of the biggest bands in the world, had all his side projects and session work, and was helping to raise three kids. He somehow found the time to brighten so many people’s days with these morning calls about a U2 B-side or something.”
Martin points out how essential it is to use a proper cadence when making announcements that are so crucial: “The first step is getting the right tone when you’re writing that statement. I don’t know how I do it, because it has always been done in a state of shock. It’s a blessing and a curse that I’ve seemed to get it right in all three of those situations.”